Nokia N8 review: Director of photography

GSMArena team, 12 October 2010.

File manager duly covered

Unlike some competing platforms Symbian handsets have always enjoyed a proper file manager. The File manager on board the N8 is a solid app that can basically do anything you can think of with your files - moving, copying renaming, sorting or sending - you name it. You can also password-protect your memory card if you see fit.

You can also search for a specific file or directory. All you need to remember is a part of the desired name and where it was located (phone memory or memory card), the Nokia N8 will find it in no time.

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The file manager

With the Nokia N8 and its USB on-the-go support you can also use the file manger to access USB flash drives and even other phones connected over the supplied cable. The N8 successfully handled all the USB flash drives we threw at it but for one, while the handsets that werenít created by Nokia generally refused to share their memory with the N8.

We tested an Android handset, an iPhone and even a Bada device and they all started charging but wouldnít connect in mass storage mode. When we plugged the other end of the USB cable in a Nokia E71 though, its memory card immediately popped up in the N8 file manager.

Image gallery is uninspiring

Symbian^3 might have improved a lot of things about the UI but the gallery has not been on the upgrade list. The Nokia N8 comes with virtually the same image browsing software as its predecessors and honestly, it only qualifies as passable by modern standards.

Sure, sweep gestures have been available for a while now and you are also getting pinch-zooming now with the N8 so itís not all bad but some eye-candy would have been more than welcome.

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The N8 image gallery

Also we miss kinetic scrolling and panning, which will cost the N8 a few more points.

On the positive side opting between portrait and landscape mode is automatic, thanks to the built-in accelerometer.

In addition to the familiar pinch gesture you can also zoom in by double taping, the volume rocker or even the on-screen slider.

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Zooming in on a single photo

Selection of multiple photos for deleting or sharing is available straight from the gallery. Unfortunately sharing is only available through MMS, email or Bluetooth with no image sharing service integration. We guess that can easily by installing the necessary uploading profiles for the services youíre interested in. At least thatís how it works on non-touch Symbian smartphones.

The final features of the image gallery include the image tagging system for easier image sorting, the slide show and the albums system (again helping you sort your image database).

Overall, picture browsing is relatively fast even with 12 MP pics, but zooming is somewhat slow. You need to wait for a second or two every time you start zooming in on a photo.

Music player got new album art

Symbian never had trouble with the music player functionality but its looks were not quite impressive. With Symbian^3 however Nokia introduces a new Cover Flow-like interface, which adds the much needed eye-candy.

Thereís automatic sorting by artist, album, genre and the option to create custom playlists straight from the phone.

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The music player got a visual upgrade too

With the huge number of supported formats, available equalizer presets and effects the picture is complete.

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Functionality is pretty solid too

Quite naturally, the player can also be minimized to play in background. In this case you can control it through the music player widget on the homescreen, which also indicates the currently running track.

Impressive audio quality

Nokia N8's multimedia prowess wouldn't be complete without high quality audio output. Fortunately, the handset managed to deliver on that one too, achieving some excellent scores in our traditional test. And the thing is pretty loud too.

When attached to an active external amplifier (i.e. your car stereo or your home audio system) the Nokia N8 performs greatly with no weak points whatsoever.

There wasn't much quality deterioration when we plugged in headphones either. Sure, the stereo crosstalk got a bit worse and we recorded some intermodulation distortion but those are rather hard to detect in anything but lab conditions.

And here come the full results so you can see for yourselves:

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Nokia N8+0.07 -0.33-89.990.00.0059 0.015-90.9
Nokia N8 (headphones attached)+0.50 -0.18-89.989.90.016 0.300-55.6
Samsung I8700 Omnia 7+0.13 -1.14-84.485.10.017 0.266-82.5
Samsung I8700 Omnia 7 (headphones attached)+0.31 -0.33-80.581.10.016 0.311-37.7
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S+0.03 -0.04-90.790.60.014 0.019-90.6
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S (headphones attached)+0.40 -0.12-90.790.60.018 0.329-43.3
BlackBerry Torch 9800+0.20, -3.87-89.087.50.00890.019-89.2
BlackBerry Torch 9800 (headphones attached)+0.27, -3.49-85.783.30.00880.248-40.4
Apple iPhone 4+0.01, -0.07-90.190.00.00680.012-89.6
Apple iPhone 4 (headphones attached)+0.01, -0.07-90.490.40.00360.092-68.4

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Nokia N8 frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

Impressive video player, but no subtitles

When it comes to video playback on Symbian smartphones, the Nokia N8 turns a new page. Itís the first handset since the Omnia HD to come with DivX and XviD support out of the box but it doesnít stop here.

The playback was silky smooth on all files with a resolution up to and including 720p, which is quite impressive. Combined with the HDMI port this can easily turn the Nokia N8 into a portable big-screen video player.

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Nokia N8 video plyer

The media player app itself only works in fullscreen landscape mode but, since anything else would have made the widescreen display useless, this is understandable. When in fullscreen, a press on the screen shows the controls, which are normally hidden. The amply sized high-contrast screen is also more than welcome for truly enjoying your clips.

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Watching a video on the N8

Some restrictions do apply, though. For one the handset cannot play any file that is larger than 2GB and you cannot fast forward and rewind ones larger than 1.5GB. If you manage to keep your files below that limit (which basically excludes full-length 720p HD movies) you will be fine.

The other problem with the video player is the lack of any kind of subtitles support.

Generally the Nokia N8 does impressively on the video playback front but itís certainly not perfect. Nokia should be able to easily fix all those little shortcomings in some future software updates.

FM radio comes with RDS

The FM radio on Nokia N8 has the same neat and simple interface as on its Symbian^1 predecessors. You can search through the already preset or new stations with sweep gestures or you can use the virtual buttons.

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The FM radio app is nice to look at and easy to use

The N8 has RDS support and automatic scanning for an alternative frequency. This means that if you travel, the N8 should be able to take care of auto-switching to the frequencies of your selected radio station.

The RDS is the best part of N8 radio app. The radio station name gets displayed with cool effects across the whole screen, while the rest of the RDS readings are printed in nicely legible text on a line at the bottom.

Thereís an FM transmitter here, too

Nokia N8 is among the few phones to come with a built-in FM transmitter. This cool feature allows you to stream the music on your phone to any standard FM radio receiver nearby at a frequency of your choice.

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The FM transmitter UI is as simple as it gets

All you need to do is find an unoccupied frequency slot within the standard FM scale between 88.10MHz and 107.90MHz. Finding a position without radio interferences is harder in some places than in other (big cities have quite some radio pollution).

But whatever the case with the available frequencies, the FM transmitter app is simple enough to guarantee smooth and easy operation.

You should also keep the phone and the receiver within close distance or the signal quality quickly deteriorates. In our test we couldnít afford moving any further than 2 meters away from the receiver but your mileage might vary.

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